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People tend to pour themselves a drink to relieve stress or otherwise alter the way they feel. It becomes problematic with the tendency to drink to mask anxiety, depression or other occurring mental health disorders. Over time, chronic alcoholism can cause damage to both the mind and body. Can alcohol abuse cause mental illness, or is it that people who may suffer from mental health disorders are more likely to abuse?

To answer these questions, it’s important to take a closer look at why people drink a certain way. Alcohol can have a temporary effect in lightening one’s mood, and for some, this will work for a little while, but not as a long-term solution. They will invariably find a more healthy way to navigate difficult times by utilizing the coping skills that will enable managing life-on-life’s sometimes challenging terms.

Still, others may seek out drinking as an escape, even as a solution itself to difficult feelings. Needing to have a drink in all social situations and habitually drinking after work and on weekends is a sign of not having adequate healthy coping skills. While abusing substances in this way isn’t a sign of mental disorder in and of itself, it can be a risky place to be in for several reasons.

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Alcoholism and Co-Occurring Disorders

The simplest possibility is that someone who is abusing substances is vulnerable to the quick and easy solution and may benefit from some coaching or therapy to develop more effective means of managing their stress. The long-term effects of substance abuse can increase a range of issues from depression, anxiety and memory loss. When treated, and with healthier outlets, these symptoms will diminish.

Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetic predisposition, environment, experiences and other outside factors, so if there is a risk for a mental disorder, drug or alcohol abuse can push an individual over the edge. Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt the balance of the chemicals our brain relies on to transmit signals from one nerve to another. This will alter the thoughts, feelings, actions, and sometimes long-term mental health.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse and you’re wondering if alcohol abuse can cause mental health disorders, it’s important to consider family history. If people in your family have grappled with either a mental disorder or alcohol abuse or drug addiction, you have a higher risk of developing these problems. It’s best to speak with an objective and knowledgeable health care professional about your concerns. Together you can determine what is really going at the core of your mental health or substance abuse symptoms and find a long lasting and effective solution.

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